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Handmade Holiday Treasures:
Student Projects That Make Great Gifts

Many of our most treasured holiday decorations and small gifts are special because they were made by hand -- especially if they were made by children's hands! Help your students make a memory this holiday season with a gift idea from the Web. These projects will put little, or big, hands to work on a masterpiece for a family member or friend.

Second-grade teacher Flo Mortimer has a unique and practical project that she teaches her students to make in December -- the greeting card box. The box has many potential uses. Some students use their creations to hold Christmas gifts, some punch holes in the boxes to make ornaments, and others simply use the containers to hold their school supplies.

Mortimer, a teacher in Sandusky, Michigan, first learned to make the greeting card boxes from her sister. She described the instructions in these simple steps:


  • 1. Cut apart a greeting card along the fold.

    2. Draw an X on the unprinted side of the less colorful piece of the greeting card to find its center. The center is where the two lines of the X meet.

    3. Fold up each of the four sides of the card to meet the center of the X. Open the card back up to reveal the creases you've made.

    4. Hold the card vertically. Cut the two vertical creases at the top and bottom until you reach their intersection with the nearest horizontal crease.

    5. Fold along the creases to make one-half of your box. Tape or glue the sides to hold them together. Fold and tape or glue the other side of the box.

    6. Repeat those steps with the more colorful piece of the greeting card to make the top of the box. The top and bottom should fit inside each other with the picture on top.

The reactions of her students signal to Mortimer that this is a project worth repeating each school year. "Second graders feel so smart when they get the hang of making these," she told Education World. "They can make these in just a few minutes when we need a small container to hold play money, crayons, letters, etc. They can also punch a hole in a corner and put a string through them to hang them on the tree."

Mortimer has also found a way for all the students to participate in the holiday project. "Children who do not celebrate Christmas enjoy making these with get-well cards or non-holiday cards," she explained. "They can be used to put small gifts inside."

Connie Miller submitted another take on the idea of the greeting card box to the KinderArt Web site. For more ideas, check out her Gift Boxes activity!



If you are looking for other creative ways for children to wrap up gifts for the family, MaryAnn Kohl, author of art books for children, has a wonderful suggestion -- homemade wrapping paper!

To make the paper, you will need white tissue paper and bingo bottles filled with liquid watercolor paint. Kohl gave the following instructions:


  • 1. Fold a piece of tissue paper until it is about a 6-inch square.

    2. Mix liquid watercolor paint and water in small sponge-tipped bottles. (The more water that is used, the lighter and more pastel the colors will be.) Press the sponge tips on the tissue paper so the paint soaks through all the layers of tissue paper. It doesn't matter if kids use a little or a lot.

    3. Leave the tissue paper folded until the paint is dry.

    4. When the paper is dry, use it as wrapping paper for gifts, or fold a stack and tie it with a ribbon. Give the stack of paper as a gift.

You'll find more of Kohl's ideas at her Web site, Bright Ring Publishing.



Pamela Chandler of Sequoia Middle School in Redding, California, devised a unique activity that exercised writing skills, encouraged her students to be positive with their peers, and made a gift for each child to treasure. Her sixth graders made sheets of positive statements about one another, and she wrapped them up as gifts.

"I have my kids each write their name on a sheet of paper and also write something positive about themselves," explained Chandler. "Then the paper is passed around the room. Each student writes something nice about each of the others [on the appropriate sheet]. Before the papers get back to the original students, I collect them all for two reasons. First, I want to be certain that nothing hurtful was said. Second, I take all the comments and type them up using a fancy font. Then, for each student, I print the statements onto a sheet of parchment paper, roll it up, and tie a ribbon around it. I give them to the students as a Christmas gift. They love it. It drives them crazy that I don't let them read them immediately. Anticipation only increases their enjoyment."



The Web is full of holiday cheer, with gifts for friends and family and those who are dear!

Handy poem. For young children, nothing could be simpler than this Handprint Poem activity from Kids Domain. Print copies of the poem, have students press a painted hand onto the page, add the name of the child and the date to each sheet, and you have a delightful gift for parents. The adorable poem captures the spirit of the desire of families to recall the childhood years of their little ones when they are all grown up. This sentimental gift is one of many in the collection featured on the Kids Domain Craft Page.

Delicious decorations. A project from another portion of the Kids Domain Web site, creating Cinnamon Dough Ornaments with your students, is a fun way of making a scented gift for the holiday season. Students practice their mathematical measurement skills as they mix the dough, and then they exercise their creative talents as they roll out the dough and cut it into seasonal shapes. A straw is the perfect tool to make a hole in the cutouts so they may serve as ornaments, and a ribbon is the finishing touch. This activity from Kids Domain is featured on the Kids Domain Craft Exchange Christmas Ornaments page.

Reindeer ornament. No gift is more traditional than the handmade ornament created by a child, and this little reindeer is a cute and easy project for any class. The Clothespeg Reindeer is created with wooden clothespins that do not contain springs. Each reindeer requires only two clothespins, two small black beads, paint, string, and a few markers. You'll be amazed by the professional look of this simple craft! The idea comes from the collection of Seasonal Themes -- December offered by the terrific art resource KinderArt.



Christmas Craft Projects
Visit this portion of to locate holiday projects from many of the Web's best crafting resources.

From the Education World Library

  • Don't miss Education World's December Holidays archive page. There you will find dozens of ideas for teaching about the holidays as well as craft activities, resources, and more.

Article by Cara Bafile
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